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  • Writer's pictureBen Schilaty

Up to Date

Updated: Nov 8, 2023

I have been so open and so public about my choice to be a single, openly gay Latter-day Saint that, to maintain a spirit of openness and honesty, I want to share the next steps of my life with you. I know I don’t owe anyone any explanations about my personal life, and I understand that it’s okay for me to maintain some privacy. However, I feel the integrity of my public-facing life deserves updated clarity.

Last year I met a guy I really liked. He’s funny, handsome, a great conversationalist, and way better at puns than me. He’s a deep thinker who loves God and the Church and we have some of the best conversations. He has also met my entire family and even saved my mom’s life once (not an exaggeration). He lives thousands of miles away from me (also not an exaggeration), so I didn’t expect to develop any relationship whatsoever when we first met. But sure enough, Instagram messages eventually turned into texts, and texts turned into phone calls, and phone calls led to us meeting up in person when he was in Utah last year.

When I learned that Attractive Foreign Guy would be in town again during the week of Charlie and Ryan’s wedding, I asked if he’d like to come as my plus one.

“This won’t be a date,” I’d insisted. “You’ll just be my plus one.”

Because I was working at BYU, it was totally okay for me to have a crush on a guy—and even talk about that crush—but going on a date would violate the Honor Code. Attractive Foreign Guy accepted my invitation, so again, I made it crystal clear to him and everyone who knew I was bringing him that this was not a date.

We’d only seen each other in person twice before so I had no idea what it would be like to spend multiple days together. I quickly noticed that he was helpful, spiritual, charismatic, and charming. All of my friends instantly loved him. This was exciting and terrifying. Part of me hoped he’d be a dud I wouldn’t have any interest in, but I really liked him. For over a year he’d been the hilarious guy I sometimes texted with who lived thousands of miles away. But now he was here in person and life felt better with him in it.

“Hey,” I said to him, “I want you to know that I can’t date anyone, but that if I could, you’re who I would want to date. But I can’t.” This was such a weird thing to say and do. I had essentially handed him a note that said, “Do you like me? Check ‘yes’ or ‘no.’”

What was I expecting to happen? For him to say he liked me too, followed by a brief ego boost, and then what? Luckily, he handled the situation well. In the kindest way possible he told me that the romantic feelings I had towards him were not reciprocated. I was pretty bummed, not only because he didn’t “check yes,” but also because he had instantly become even more attractive to me after I saw how he managed the awkward interaction.

This experience helped me realize I’ve been responding to crushes in unhealthy ways ever since I came out.

Over the years I’ve taken an array of precautions to make sure I don’t ever fall in love. I’ve always cut off relationships before they could start. I try to turn off my feelings so they can’t grow. I’ve even tried to convince myself I’m asexual and don’t actually feel attraction. In fact, even as I write this I’m realizing that the few crushes I’ve actually admitted to myself have mostly lived impossibly far away.

I had said, “I can’t date you, but I like you.” And, “Just so you know, this isn’t a date.” But if I were to be honest with myself, I wanted him to like me and I wanted it to be a date.

As I’ve been reflecting a lot on these crushes I’ve had throughout the years and the unhealthy ways that I’ve handled them. I’ve thought about Alma 32 and the invitation to plant a seed to see if it grows. When it comes to genuine love and connection with another man, I don’t know what would develop because I haven’t allowed myself agency to try it.

I’m generally a happy person, but the truth is, the romantic part of my life has been incredibly painful. I have a heart that’s wired for connection and I can’t help but have crushes. But I constantly put up barriers so I don’t fall in love. So, for as long as I can remember, I’ve been shoving my emotions down to protect myself from the pain. I’ve lived in a world where I can like someone and hang out as friends, but any romantic intent, no matter how innocent, has been strictly off-limits.

I called my dad and talked through all of this with him. I reminded him of the relationship I had with Jordan when I was 30. I had fallen in love with him, I told him I loved him, and I even kissed him, but when Jordan asked if I could be his boyfriend I said no. I was so starved for genuine love and physical connection, but I was also so rigid in my stance that I couldn’t date a man. What a jumbled mess!

“Dad, I don’t think I’ve ever had a healthy romantic relationship.” He paused and replied, “That’s so sad.”

And it is sad. I’m almost forty years old, and for my whole life either:

1. I like a guy who doesn’t like me back… and that makes me sad.

2. He likes me but I don’t like him… and that makes me sad.

3. We both liked each other, but I can’t date him… and that makes me sad. OR

4. Over time, neither of us are interested in the other… which is logistically the easiest but still kind of a bummer so that makes me sad, too.

There have been some big changes in my life lately and I’ve been asking God where He wants me to be and how I should move forward. Right now I feel that it is right for me to try an experiment. With these guys I’ve liked in the past, I didn’t have the chance to know if God wanted me to nourish those relationships because I threw them out before they could grow.

The Savior said, “ask, and ye shall receive; knock, and it shall be opened unto you; for he that asketh, receiveth; and unto him that knocketh, it shall be opened” (3 Nephi 27:29). I’m feeling prompted to ask something of God. I feel prompted to ask Him to let me love someone.

A week after Ryan and Charlie’s wedding I was on a backpacking trip on the north shore of Vancouver Island. With no cell service and few distractions I had a lot of time to think and ponder. More than once I went off by myself and sat on a rock to look out at the ocean. I thought about Attractive Foreign Guy and this relationship that I wanted but couldn’t have. Not just because he didn’t like me, but because I shut it down before it could even start. A big part of me wanted to cry, to just get all the sadness out. But in those moments of striving to be present, when any feeling could have emerged from my heart, the emotion that kept bubbling up was gratitude. I get to do so many wonderful, amazing things, and I am loved by some of the raddest people on the planet. But within this gratitude for the life I have, I feel like there’s something more. And that something more is learning how to love and be loved.

While my dating status is changing, my beliefs and values have not. I remain deeply committed to the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. I’m going to continue serving in the temple every week, attending church every Sunday, reading the scriptures daily, praying, seeking inspiration and striving to follow it. I can’t imagine a future in which I am not actively engaged in the Church of Jesus Christ.

I also understand the reality of my situation. Most gay Latter-day Saints my age left the Church long ago or are married to women. Statistically it’s not likely I’ll find someone who likes me who I also like, who wants to move forward in the Church, and live a life in line with its teachings. I think it’s quite possible that a year from now, five years from now, ten years from now I’ll still be single. And I’m perfectly okay with that. I don’t know how this journey will end or what the results will be, but I know I need to be on it.

And just to be clear, the prompting I’m feeling isn’t to start dating guys. It is much deeper than that. I am feeling God invite me to remove the barriers I have built around my heart and open myself up to the possibility of loving someone. And wanting to love someone is a righteous desire.

To be honest, I’m pretty embarrassed to be writing this post. You know how sometimes married couples will announce to friends and family, “We’re trying!” even though there’s no baby and no actual news? I’m essentially doing the same thing here. And yet it’s important for me to share this update because I don’t want people to view me as being committed to staying single when I’m not. What I have been committed to all along is striving to understand God’s will for me and then to do it. And for the last nine years I have felt that God wanted me to be single. But I don’t feel that way anymore.

I have said many times over the years that I planned to remain single. While I have always encouraged everyone to follow their own path, I did think that my path was pretty fixed on singlehood. But I was wrong. Life experience and new realizations about myself have led me to change my mind. And this change feels like growth.

As I’ve thought about how people might respond to this life update, I’ve been a little nervous. Will people who saw me as a hero now see me as the villain? Will people who hated me for being single change their minds? Or will they still not like me?

If you are a gay Latter-day Saint and wonder what this announcement means for you, please don’t worry about the choices I’m making. You know your values, you know how to talk to God, and you know how to receive revelation. Trust the Spirit and trust your gut, and know that I’m trying to do the same.

If you are disappointed in me and feel like I’m letting you down, I want you to know that this isn’t bad news. After feeling stagnant for a while I’m using my agency to take steps forward. And as I inevitably make mistakes going forward, I will repent and strive to do better.

If you are super excited about this and want to set me up with your son, thank you, that is super kind. As I’ve told friends about this decision they have been very supportive, and some have even been visibly relieved. I hope that if you’re happy that I’ve chosen to be open to dating that you would be equally as happy if in the future I chose to be single.

If you think that my story is proof that no one can be gay, single, and happy in the Church and you want to use my story as evidence of that, then I have an invitation. At the end of my book I wrote: “I have one parting request. If you are tempted to give this book to an LGBTQ loved one… I would ask you to resist that temptation and pause for a moment. Instead of giving them my story, can you invite them to tell you theirs?” (A Walk in My Shoes, p. 164). I have clearly and repeatedly asked that my story not be used as a model for the choices others should make. I ask that same courtesy of you, that you let my story be my story and not generalize it to others or use it to make a point.

Ultimately, I’m doing what I believe is right for me based on my own experiences with God. And when it’s all said and done, the people who know me trust me, so I am simply asking those who read this to walk a little further in my shoes with me. As my dad said when I told him about this development: “Ben, I love you. I’m proud of you. This is the right move. Don’t look back.”


Charlie and I discussed this decision in more detail on an episode of "Questions from the Closet."

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62 comentarios

Emma Howlett
Emma Howlett
20 ene

Are you kidding?! I feel like most often the internal changes or transitions we make in our lives are way, waaay more critical to recognize than the ‘major life events‘ that everyone actually does announce. Thanks so much for sharing this, Ben. These thoughts are helping me get a better grip on my own experiences with love and hope, even though I’m not gay. I appreciate you sharing your uniquely genuine and humble perspective on things and I wish you the best in this next step forward!!

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Brian Gardunia
Brian Gardunia
26 dic 2023

You seem sincere and kind and thoughtful. i hope you can find someone to share a life with. I am sure that they will love you for it. Best of luck and don’t worry what the church thinks. Just live a life that makes you happy and good.

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EmmaLeigh Hobson
EmmaLeigh Hobson
18 nov 2023

Ben, I always appreciate the vulnerable, honest, and sincere way you articulate what you are experiencing. Thank you for sharing this post. I can't imagine the complexity you are facing. I know that God wants you to open your arms to the love He and Jesus Christ have for you and for you to feel that connection and love you have been longing for. I hope the best for you in this courageous endeavor!

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Fenix Rising
Fenix Rising
10 nov 2023

Hi Ben, you don’t know me, but I feel like I know you. I’m a very close friend of the “Attractive Foreigner Guy” (because we live in the same country) but also because I’m privvy to his inner thoughts and feelings which he’s also shared with me about this experience.

He’s always spoken highly of you and after reading this - I can see why. I know what you see in this special friend of ours, he‘s helped me through many of my own struggles as an LDS woman, where I too experience same gender attraction and fell in love with another woman. You being openly gay and also a grounded member of the gospel of Jesus Christ within the…

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09 nov 2023

Ben, this is so courageous of you to share. I love how you extend so much grace to others and calmly ask for others to show you grace. So grateful for you, and for your consistent, prayerful, and intentional efforts to follow God's guidance for you. Cheering you on!

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